India recruiting hackers for elite cyber offensive

India, one of the fastest growing technology economies in the world along with China, is taking a leaf out of the latter’s book by getting together top IT workers and “ethical hackers” from across the country to form an elite “cyber army”.

The India Times suggests that software professionals are being rounded up and inducted into a small army for the sole purpose of intelligence gathering and defence against attack from both friendly and hostile nations.

The 29th of July saw a board meeting chaired by national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and attended by the top dog in the Intelligence Bureau, officials of the telecom department, the IT ministry and security agencies. With worries over spying and sabotage from India’s neighbours – in particular Pakistan and China – a new initiative was to be drawn up.

The government proposal is not just for defence: according to documents obtained by the Economic Times of India, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) along with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) will have to work together to create cyber offensive capabilities for mining dataand gaining technical intelligence.

The NTRO is suggesting that legal protection will be given to recruits who join the initiative who will find themselves side stepping fines or punishments under the Indian IT Act, which says that hacking is punishable with imprisonment of up to three year and a fine of up to 2 lakh – or about $2,100 USD. 

India certainly has the man power, expertise and financial resources to create a powerful evasive or offensive security team. It’s thought the move was drafted as a response to repeated attacks and breaches from both Chinese and Pakistani agencies, though both countries outright deny any involvement.